I have been attending this group from around 1995 in this area where I started living at that time (the Tendring Peninsular coast of North East Essex). All members and visitors intermittently over the years put random titles on slips of paper into a tin, and from this tin we randomly draw out titles for fiction homework and speed-writing fiction exercises during the meeting.
I am very grateful to this group for making me continue writing new prose pieces, most of which since 1995 have been written for homework or speed writing exercises.
Below is last night's speed-writing exercise - written by me then in about ten minutes and subsequently read aloud - transcribed from my scribble unchanged:
How does your garden grow?
The question was posed. Poised between thoughts of an old nursery rhyme and literal curiosity as to the nature of my own garden.
I stared at the questioner's face to see if I could ascertain which was intended. A puckish individual with a twinkle in his eye - so I gathered he meant both a reference to my childhood with the reminder of the nursery rhyme and a query as to how the colourful blooms bobbing in the wind outside my window could actually thrive upon coal slag.
He reminded me of my late father. It was my father who often told me nursery rhymes from memory rather than reading them to me from off the page. My father had been a miner during the Depression. I was old enough to remember the historical Depression as well as his. Now I had to live with my own.
Could this be a ghost before me? I was old enough to have Alzheimer's, old enough indeed to die, but I no longer carried the burden of any depression. Foolish minds could not be depressed. They could only think of foolishness.
"How does your garden grow, Mary?" he asked again, this time appending my name to his question. His fingernails were half-mooned with coal dust. His face was grainy with dark veins, contours of blood turned from red to black.
I closed my eyes and imagined a lunar landscape where nothing could grow. I needed to blot him out. I needed to blot myself out. I saw an astronaut making huge leaps from rock to rock. Why did they call areas of the Moon seas? Like the Sea of Tranquillity...
I opened my eyes to see. He had gone. I felt the flowers rooted to the bottom of my soul waiting either for water to water me or fire to burn me. Rain or sun. Either will make me grow.